It’s been a disastrous summer for city politics in the U.S., but across the world in Hong Kong, civil unrest and mass distrust of current leadership has similarly reached a boiling point. In February, an extradition bill was introduced in Hong Kong’s legislature that would allow the local government to send people accused of crimes to mainland China for trial, a move that could potentially expose suspects to criminal justice systems with pretty troubling human rights records. Millions marched in protest in the months that followed, and on Friday, artist Ai Weiwei told the BBC that he’d deployed a team of researchers to Hong Kong to record these events as they unfold, in the hopes of compiling a series of interviews or a documentary.
“We are really on the front line; we are fighting for human rights, for freedom of speech, and we are fighting for all the values we care about [alongside] those people who also care about those same values,” Weiwei said. The extradition bill has thus far been suspended but not killed outright, and the demonstrations are ballooning as Chinese citizens call for broader reforms.
Weiwei has long been heralded as one of China’s best-known dissident figures, and has frequently pushed back against the country’s often violent suppression of protesters. Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, which is a former colony of the British Empire, have been appealing to the U.K. for intervention, but Weiwei believes that these efforts won’t work. “I think Britain has been laughed about by the Chinese government,” he continued. “I don’t think Britain is going to take any responsibility. As someone fighting for human rights, I have no trust for Britain at all.”
Whether or not Weiwei eventually elects to turn the footage gathered by his researchers into a documentary or work of adversarial art, the attention he’s bringing to the conflict between the Chinese government and its citizens is invaluable.